Imagine a two-year-old running around shadowing his dad on a rugby pitch not knowing that one day it’ll be himself with the ball in his hand playing semi-professionally.
This is now a reality for Melbourne Rising halfback Taylor Acheson.
A talented back for Dewar Shield side Harlequins, Acheson’s rise to being selected in the Melbourne Rising squad for 2019 is a story of persistence, resilience and connection with the game of rugby, something which has surrounded his life since early childhood.
The 27-year-old who originally hails from Holywood, Northern Ireland, was brought up in a rugby dominated life for as long as he can remember.
His father made him familiar with their local rugby ground when he was only a year old, a memory which has been etched in his mind to this day.
“My dad played, so I was down at the local rugby club since I was probably like one or two years old just messing about and I was playing rugby from three or four,” Acheson said.
“He was always the guy that came and watched me, took me to and from training, [and] took me down to the local pitches to run.”
Acheson grew up continuing to play rugby all through his time at school, before deciding to study a degree in Sports Science.
Confused on what he wanted to do with his life away from the rugby pitch, Acheson decided to take a break from his degree and travel abroad.
“I was just taking a break from my degree. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I deferred for a year and just travelled. I went to New Zealand and was there for a year, then the first stop (after that) was Melbourne,” he said.
“I really enjoyed Melbourne. I joined a great club here, the Harlequin’s, and I just liked the way of life.”
With his his love for Victoria and Harlequins set in stone, Acheson transferred his degree to be completed in Melbourne, ending up finishing his studies at Victoria University.
He has since opened his own personal training business, Taylor Acheson Strength and Conditioning, where he works individually with his clients to train smarter to achieve their goals.
He has also combined his interest in playing rugby and his personal training to work with players to improve their own health.
“I mostly do personal training and I’m (a) qualified strength and conditioning coach, so I work with players and some of the boys at my club (in) just keeping them strong and fast, (while also conducting) a little bit of rehab too,” he said.
While taking great pride in helping others with their own ailments, in recent times, it’s been Acheson who has had to take a focus on his own injuries he has sustained.
After initially believing he had suffered only a minor knee injury, the talented back ultimately realised he had been managing something way more serious.
“It was just a fractured kneecap, but I kinda had been given mixed advice from multiple people unsure if it was fractured or not,” he said.
“And then I had an x-ray that missed the fracture and so it was constantly sore. It was pretty good [the outcome of the injury], it was pretty minor surgery in the end. I (also) broke my thumb this year.
With those injuries now firmly in the rear-view mirror, Acheson has now been able to string together game time to re-find form.
“(I’ve) had one or two setbacks but it’s nice to eventually get back on top of these things and play the game again,” he sad.
“I’m feeling back to where I was a couple of years ago and I know a lot more now than I knew back then.”
Now nine months on from having surgery on his knee, Acheson’s journey back from his injuries paid off when he was selected in the 2019 Melbourne Rising squad.
Receiving the invitation to play for the Rising left Acheson feeling a sense of reward for his persistence to rehab his way back into playing rugby.
“I was really excited, (I) had a bit of goose bumps on the day (of being invited) but then after that I was looking forward to getting going and getting stuck into training to be honest,” he said.
As he looks ahead to his first real taste of professional rugby, Acheson is looking ahead at the opportunity of playing with the Rising, and is particularly eager to be playing against a much more competitive opposition.
Another facet Acheson is revelling in is the ability to call other members of the Rising squad teammates, after battling them as opposition players in the Dewar Shield.
“It’s probably the opportunity to test yourself against a higher standard of opposition. You play the game to test yourself against as high competition as you can and as many people as you can,” he said.
“It’s really nice to play with people who you have always played against locally. You respect and appreciate their talent and you can try and come together as one team to beat another state.”